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Wolves win Arrowhead, head into playoffs

With a conference championship already in tow, Ely’s high school baseball team begins its quest for postseason glory this week.The Timberwolves take on Duluth Marshall Wednesday (5 p.m.) at Grand Rapids, kicking off the Section 7AA tournament.Ely heads into the playoffs on the heels of the program’s first Arrowhead Conference title in three years.Wednesday, the Wolves downed Cook 10-6 to wrap up the league title and a perfect 7-0 mark in conference play.The following night, Ely downed area rival Nashwauk-Keewatin 9-6, ending the regular season with a three-game winning streak and a 15-4 overall record.The Wolves, who also defeated International Falls last week, may be peaking at exactly the right time.Senior Josh Weckman picked up his seventh win on the mound in Monday’s 3-1 decision at International Falls, while junior lefty Tim Scott had one of his best outings of the year at Nashwauk-Keewatin.The Wolves have also shored up their defense and warmed up their bats, clubbing 25 hits in their last two contests.“We’ve swung the bats really well the last two games,” said Ely Head Coach Frank Ivancich. “Even our outs were hard outs, and that’s a good sign.”Ely compiled its best record in Ivancich’s three-year tenure despite a beefed-up schedule and a move up to Class AA.After four years in Class A, the state’s smallest enrollment division, realignment placed the Wolves in AA this spring and the team has been up to the challenge.Ely is seeded second in the north half of 7AA, behind only Virgina, and figures to be one of several schools with a shot at the section crown.“I feel good about the season,” said Ivancich. “To go 15-4 with the way we upgraded our schedule, that’s an excellent record. No matter what happens I‘m proud of the way they have played and the way they approached practice. A lot of hard work by a lot of guys went into this.”While Weckman (7-0, four saves) and Scott have given the Wolves a solid one-two pitching punch all season long, Ely has shown improvement both in the field and at the plate during the stretch run.The Wolves played error-free ball Monday, as Weckman scattered six hits and threw just 77 pitches in a complete-game effort against the Broncos.He got all the offense he needed in the first.Senior outfielder Aaron Thom, who has eight hits in his last 10 at bats, led off the game with a solo home run against losing pitcher Brett Bahr. Later in the frame, Weckman launched a two-run shot for a 3-0 lead.The Broncos (8-9-1) scraped across a run in the seventh against Weckman, but that was it.Ely 10, Cook 6Thom was four-for-four as the Wolves opened up a big lead and then hung on against the Little Gophers.Colin Moberly picked up the pitching win, with Weckman working the last three frames to get the save.Ely 9, Nashwauk-Keewatin 6Thursday’s game followed a similar pattern, as the Wolves used a high-powered offense to take a 9-1 lead, then staved off a late Spartans rally.Thom and Kevin Pope both went three-for-four for the Wolves, while Tony Carlson, Kai Bowen and Cory Lassi all added two hits each.David Urbas had the key early blow, a three-run homer in the top of the third that gave the Wolves a 4-0 lead.Thom’s two-run single in the fourth added to the Ely lead. In the sixth, Thom, Pope and Lassi had run-scoring hits to make it 9-1.N-K (14-6) stormed back in the sixth against Scott, rattling off five hits and scoring five times to make it 9-6.That’s when Ivancich turned to Weckman, and Ely’s ace bailed the squad out of the jam and retired all four hitters he faced.Scott won for the fifth time this spring, allowing seven hits and striking out seven in five and two-thirds innings.“He was pretty tough,” Ivancich said of Scott. “It may have been the best he’s thrown this year.”• Virginia, Ely, International Falls and Proctor have the top four seeds in the north half of 7AA.In the south, Mora, Hermantown, Esko and Hinckley are the top four teams.After first-round play Wednesday, the north and south cross over in the 7AA bracket.The winner of the Ely-Duluth Marshall game goes to Hinckley for second round action Thursday. If Ely wins its first two games, it would start double-elimination play Thursday night.The 7AA tournament includes three games at Ely Thursday, although those contests involve teams in the bracket opposite the Wolves. Game times are 3, 5:30 and 8 p.m.The tournament continues at Wade Stadium in Duluth on June 8.

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